Duck beneath the verdant archway of a home off River Road, then traipse along the side of the house and spill out into the backyard where fruit trees, a water feature, a massive swath of vegetables and a chicken coop create a sort of urban Eden.
Jan Spencer’s house is a little unusual. It does not have your typical well-manicured lawn, Spencer says, but it’s his vision of the future, if others adapt to the permaculture lifestyle.
Spencer is coordinating the 8th annual Northwest Permaculture Convergence Aug. 28-30 in Eugene, a weekend-long event created to discuss and spread the practice of permaculture.
While permaculture includes taking care of needs close to home, including growing food in the yard, collecting rainwater and using solar panels for energy, Spencer says the practice of permaculture encapsulates much more than that.
“It’s a collection of values, ideals and principles,” he says. “We want to live more local, but it’s not about living like our grandparents. We’re mixing traditional wisdom with modern science to create a more resilient, sustainable neighborhood.”
The convergence, which alternates years between Oregon and Washington, centers around the River Road neighborhood this year, with an expo taking place at the River Road Recreation Center. The expo features a series of panels intended to introduce and assist people interested in practicing permaculture.
Topics include drying fruits and vegetables, home composting, keeping backyard chickens and harvesting rainwater.
“If we’re going to survive as a species, this is going to have to become normal,” says Spencer, who bought his house 15 years ago and has since worked to turn the property into an example of permaculture in action. “This is the cornerstone of a new kind of economy.”
In addition to the expo, the convergence will feature six site tours, giving participants tangible examples of what permaculture looks like and how it can be accomplished. The tour will start in the River Road neighborhood, with visits to 10 houses within the community, including Spencer’s house.
The tour will also stop in the Friendly neighborhood and then visit local businesses that practice permaculture: Back Yard Farmer, Hummingbird Wholesale and the Center for Appropriate Transport, among others.
Spencer says that in order for permaculture to succeed, neighborhoods need to build a sense of community. “When people start to know their neighbors, they can increase the scale of their projects,” he says. “Eugene is a better than average place for this. We need to take time to make our ideal lives happen.”
The eighth annual Northwest Permaculture Convergence starts 9:30 am Friday, Aug. 28, with a tour starting at the River Road Recreation Center, 1400 Lake Drive. Expo panels start 10 am Saturday, Aug. 29, at Emerald Park, close to the recreation center. Both the expo and site tours are free, but donations are welcome. Additional activities are available with a registration fee. Visit northwestpermaculture.org for more info.